Guest blog from Bryan Hindle, Managing Director at Brick-Tie Preservation
20 October saw the re-launch of the UKCMB at UCL in London. It was a resounding success with a large attendance from across the UK and beyond.
Beforehand there were six separate technical working group sessions at nearby Central House, where experts met to plan a way forward and share ideas and knowledge on:
- TWG 1: Monitoring & modelling of moisture in buildings
- TWG 2: Ventilation, airtightness & moisture in buildings
- TWG 3: Moisture in new build
- TWG 4: Moisture in existing buildings & retrofit
- TWG 5: Flooding & escape of water
- TWG 6: Financial, insurance & legal context & consequences of moisture in buildings
I joined TWG 2: ‘Ventilation, airtightness and moisture in buildings’. I have a keen interest in TWG 1, 2 and 4 but of course I couldn’t be in all these places at once. Some of my peers in the Property Care Association were present on these so we can share knowledge and progress across all of them. The PCA have lots of members with expertise in all of the UKCMB technical working groups. One of my roles is as facilitator between the PCA and UCL’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), which is a jointly funded and government supported venture to attempt to answer some of the most pressing questions about the current state of the UK indoor environment.
Members of the ‘Ventilation, airtightness and moisture in buildings’ technical working group (yours truly behind the camera)
Neil May and his team at UCL presented a fascinating initial body of work for delegates. The centre’s 22 page publication “Health and Moisture in Buildings” is a powerful call for action on what is certainly the most pressing and difficult issue in the built environment. That is how we can provide comfortable and healthy living space for our population, whilst reducing energy use. There is very clear evidence that increasing airtightness, botched attempts to meet greenhouse gas goals and social changes are leading to declining health outcomes.
Those like myself, who are surveying houses daily, have seen this for ourselves. However our anecdotal evidence requires testing against the rigorous academic standards, which UCL, BRE and partners of the UKCMB can bring to bear. This will bring much needed clarity to the fore and help banish some of the myths and scaremongering currently doing the rounds.
Colin King of BRE brought delegates up to date on the regulatory and quality standards which are under review, as action to help improve all aspect of control of dampness are underway. He and his team are working hard on these.
The thing I loved about the day was the inclusive atmosphere, which was palpable. Dampness in buildings always brings forth many convergent and divergent opinions. I’ve read so many post on social media where those in the business of dealing with dampness focus on arguments and decry opposing opinions as ‘stupid’, ‘wrong’ or even ‘fraudulent’. I see the UKCMB as an opportunity for professionals to cut through most of the negative stuff and at last get the full and willing cooperation of the wider dedicated professionals, who are undoubtedly a great source of information. Together we can crack this growing problem of poor health through dampness in buildings. This will benefit the health of the nation, both physically, mentally and financially.
During the day I learned lots from just chatting away to fellow delegates. I was asked to elaborate on some basic practical applications of the use of Vapour pressure (partial vapour pressure) and Relative Humidity in a no nonsense fashion. I’ve done this for fellow practitioners and students before so here are a couple of links to past posts, which help put this in perspective (purely from surveying point of view – I am no scientist). I do not profess to lecture my peers, I was lost by some of the technical language I heard on Friday – However, those of us with some site experience were really welcomed on Friday. We wish to contribute what we can – please follow this example and share your experience too, we need it.
These post are available for surveyors who just want a guide to how practitioners like me use RH, temperature and Vp (especially differential Vp), to aid damp diagnosis:
The use of on site data logging to diagnose problems and monitor interventions (two part post):
In our TWG discussion there was general agreement that the education and engagement of homeowners and tenants was a key part of tackling these issues. Below is a link to a post I wrote some years back for exactly that purpose. It is written for social housing tenants but the advice and tone works on many levels. There are lots of ways of engaging tenants; I’ve often said that the cup of tea and careful listening session on arrival is worth its weight in gold. This enables a two-way conversation where tenants no longer feel blamed or ignored, surveyors need to remember the real misery caused to real people by damp and mould in homes.
Finally I want anyone out there with a passion for helping rid homes of damp to engage with the UKCMB. Neil May has suggested a membership system and I fully endorse that. Once the system is agreed and rolled out we’ll need to reach out and find those people who are hard at work out there – perhaps too busy to have noticed they are not alone. Perhaps you hold answers to problems we want to tackle – please get in touch with UKCMB – we need your help.